Although she lived and worked in San Francisco for less than a decade, Sonia Gechtoff took a highly active role in Bay Area art while she was there. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Gechtoff received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Philadelphia Museum of Art School in 1950, and then came to San Francisco to study at the California School of Fine Arts in 1951 and ’52, eventually teaching there for several years before relocating to New York in 1958. In the Bay Area, Gechtoff was most frequently associated with the action painters, including her husband James Kelly, Madeleine Diamond, Julius Wasserstein, Deborah Remington and Jay DeFeo.
Gechtoff’s paintings of the ‘50s and early ‘60s were not only abstractions; they were also symbolic markings. Poetry was an important inspiration for Gechtoff. Her exhibition at the San Francisco De Young Museum in 1957 was accompanied by pages of Michael McClure’s poems which, like her painting, often focused on natural themes. Her painting, “Anna Karenina”, is a great example of her work. Through this work she delves into figurative abstractions and, in so doing, reveals her poetic inspiration.